Olatunde Johnson

Olatunde C. Johnson

  • Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law

J.D., Stanford Law School, 1995
B.A., Yale University, 1989

Areas of Specialty

Antidiscrimination and Equality Law
Fair Housing
Employment Discrimination Law
Statutory Interpretation
Civil Procedure

Known for her distinguished scholarship in civil procedure, legislation, and anti-discrimination law, Olatunde Johnson is equally committed to cultivating the next generation of civic-minded lawyers. In the classroom, Johnson draws on her background in legal practice and government service to illustrate how social change can be effected through litigation as well as problem-solving outside the courtroom. 

Johnson’s research has helped shape the national conversation on modern civil rights legislation, anti-discrimination, fair housing, congressional power, and innovations to address discrimination and inequality. Her recent work examines state and local governments’ efforts to enhance opportunities for historically excluded groups as well as the conflicts that arise when states preempt local efforts to address discrimination and promote wage increases and affordable housing. 

In 2016, Johnson was awarded the Law School’s Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Columbia University’s Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching. In 2009, Columbia Law School students selected Johnson as the Public Interest Professor of the Year, praising her as a “role model for aspiring public interest lawyers.”

Nearly a decade after she joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2006, Johnson was appointed vice dean for Intellectual Life for the 2016–2018 term. In that role, she organized a wide range of events designed to engage the Law School community, from a Lawyers, Community, and Impact panel on recent developments in U.S. law and politics to a roundtable discussion on integration in America, faculty film series, and a book talk.

Johnson brings extensive public service experience to her work at Columbia Law School, including clerking for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1997 to 2001, Johnson worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), where she conducted trial- and appellate-level litigation to promote racial and ethnic equity in employment, health, and higher education. From 2001 to 2003, she served as constitutional and civil rights counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, then as a senior consultant on racial justice in the ACLU’s National Legal Department from 2003 to 2004.

In 2017, Johnson was elected a member of the American Law Institute.


  • “Leveraging Antidiscrimination,” in a Nation of Widening Opportunities: The Civil Rights Act at Fifty (Bagenstos and Katz), 2015
  • “Lawyering That Has No Name: Title VI and the Meaning of Private Enforcement,” Stanford Law Review, 2014
  • “The Agency Roots of Disparate Impact,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 2014
  • “Beyond the Private Attorney General: Equality Directives in American Law,” New York University Law Review, 2012
  • “Stimulus and Civil Rights,” Columbia Law Review, 2011
  • “The Last Plank: Rethinking Public and Private Power to Further Fair Housing,” Journal of Constitutional Law-Penn Law, 2011

View an extended list of Olatunde Johnson’s publications.


Honors and Awards

Admitted to American Law Institute


Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching


Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching


Public Interest Professor of the Year


News and Press